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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Gone Fishing (02/01/07)

TITLE: Life Lessons from Fish Creek
By Marty Wellington


Hyder, Alaska is not your typical American town. There’s no bank. No school for the kids. Very little U.S. currency. A couple of RV parks and a lone laundromat service summer tourists. Population? At last count, 100 souls more or less.

Not many folks find Hyder. It’s hidden a couple miles east of Stewart, British Columbia, masquerading as a Canadian town. It lies at the head of the Portland Canal—a 70 mile long fjord in the southernmost section of Alaska. And it holds a delightful secret. Three miles upriver from town is an Alaskan bear cuisine and playground. From July to September each year, Fish Creek brims with chum and pink salmon ripe for the picking. And this fact doesn’t go unnoticed by the army of black and brown bears who frolic in its streams.

Back in the summer of 2000, our family found this hideaway quite by accident. A reading of our guidebook and maps took us to Stewart to explore the glaciers and fjords along the coastline. We ambled into town in the late afternoon to search for a place to stay and found all the motels full or B & Bs that wouldn’t accept children. The hotel clerk recommended we drive over to Hyder to check room availability. A lone ten-room motel offered us sanctuary. There was only one room left and it became ours for two nights.

After dinner, our family headed north of town for what would become the highlight of that summer—close encounters with a bunch of grizzlies.

A long wooden observation deck, perched high above the creek, became our refuge. Bald eagles nested in the overhanging trees. Camp chair photographers lined the creek’s embankment, their zoom lenses standing at attention. Many of the onlookers were regulars at the creek who knew the bears by their color and markings.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that each bear had a distinctive character as well. We saw sows instructing their cubs in the fine art of fishing and cuisine; some with twins and one family with triplet cubs. The older male bears were scarred from a lifetime of battles. There were squabbles over the best catches, power struggles and submission. It was a microcosm of life.

As the evening wore on, we began to wonder what a nighttime encounter with a grizzly might look like and decided it was time to go. We could always come back in the morning.

Daylight couldn’t come soon enough for our two girls. They were ready for more bear hunting. Armed with our cameras, we headed to the creek for another adventure. And, the bears didn’t disappoint.

Lumbering back and forth through the shallow water, nearly every bear chased the slippery prey with inspiring determination. One fellow, though, just couldn’t succeed. He struggled up and down the creek, batting at the fish, giving it his all. His dance went on and on. We noticed his slight build and ragged coat. This wasn’t the first time he’d failed on a fishing trip. We watched sadly as he eventually retreated to the woods in defeat.

It was a life lesson our family would not soon forget. Never, never give up—it could mean the difference between life and death.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:2-4, 6-7 NASB)

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 02/09/07
Loved this adventurous trip to the north country; especially the two days with the bears; but I'm still worrying about the little feller that gave up. Nice job, and interesting ride...and read.
Sheri Gordon02/12/07
I really enjoyed reading this, and I'm going to keep this in our travel file for future reference. You did a nice job sharing your family's experience with us.
Jen Davis02/15/07
What a wonderful experience for your family. This was an enjoyable read and a very interesting perspective on the topic.